Danger! Danger! Publishing perils!

Most readers will be familiar with predatory journals and avoid publishing in these. Recently I learned about “hijacked journals” – another peril facing those who hope to publish. Here, a fake website emulates a legitimate journal, taking on the same or similar to the legitimate journals in order to take in manuscripts to be published for a fee. Fortunately, this problem has been identified and there are increasing resources to assist scholars to avoid the problems of predatory publishing (and conferences).

For graduate students and scholars unfamiliar with predatory journals, in December 2019, a group of 35 scholars published a statement that defines what predatory journals are:

Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices. (Grudniewicz et al., 2019, p. 211)

The Committee on Publication Ethics also released a discussion document on predatory publishing in late 2019. COPE (2019, p. 3) defines predatory publishing as:

Predatory publishing generally refers to the systematic for-profit publication of purportedly scholarly content (in journals and articles, monographs, books, or conference proceedings) in a deceptive or fraudulent way and without any regard for quality assurance. Here, ‘for-profit’ refers to profit generation per se. Whereas predatory publishers are profit-generating businesses, some may conceivably pose as non-profit entities such as academic societies or research institutions. This is not to suggest that ‘for profit’ is, in itself, problematic but that these journals exist solely for profit without any commitment to publication ethics or integrity of any kind. Predatory publishers may cheat authors (and their funders and institutions) through charging publishing-related fees without providing the expected or industry standard services. Predatory publishers may also deceive academics into serving as editorial board members or peer reviewers. In short, fake scholarly publications lack the usual features of editorial oversight and transparent policies and operating procedures that are expected from legitimate peer-reviewed publications.

This document outlines the key characteristics of predatory journals as those that have little or no peer review, very fast publication times, and charge publication fees that are unanticipated by authors submitting manuscripts. This report includes 16 warning signs for predatory journals (pp. 6-7). This report offers recommendations to authors, professional associations, institutions, funders, editors and reviewers, and publishers as to actions that might be taken to avoid becoming involved in a predatory journal. The COPE’s report includes other useful resources (p. 13), including links to informative sources.

  1. Principles of transparency and best practice in scholarly publishing.

Committee on Publication Ethics, Directory of Open Access Journals, Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, World Association of Medical Editors.

  1. “Fake”, “predatory”, and “pseudo” journals: Charlatans threatening trust in science.

International Committee of Medical Journal Editors.

  1. Laine C, Winker MA. Identifying predatory or pseudo-journals.

World Association of Medical Editors.

  1. Predatory or deceptive publishers – Recommendations for caution.

Council of Science Editors.

  1.  Joint position statement on predatory publishing.

American Medical Writers Association, European Medical Writers Association, International Society for Medical Publication Professionals.

  1. Predatory publishing. COPE Forum discussion summary. 5 November 2018.
  1. Think.Check.Submit. An online guide to help researchers identify trusted journals for their research.
  1. Think.Check.Attend. An online guide to help researchers judge the legitimacy and academic credentials of conferences.

It is useful to distinguish predatory journals here from legitimate open access journals that provide access to readers outside academia. These are quite often published by well-known publishers. For example, The American Educational Research Association has an open access journal published by SAGE, entitled: AERA Open.

In the area of qualitative research, an open-access journal published by SAGE and coordinated by the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology at The University of Alberta is The International Journal of Qualitative Methods.

Kathy Roulston


Committee on Publication Ethics. (2019). Discussion document: Predatory publishing. https://doi.org/10.24318/cope.2019.3.6

Grudniewicz, A., Maher, D., Cobey, K. D., et al. (2019). Predatory journals: No definition, no defence. Nature, 576, 210-212. doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-03759-y

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